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Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 49
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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Canadian Docs Say No More Pets In Cabins On Planes.

Feb 23, 2010 - 23 comments

So this story caught my eye this weekend and I am just not really sure how to react.

The Canadian Medical Journal posted an editorial in which the writer criticized Air Canada's allowance of small pets to travel in the cabin of planes as an "unnecessary allergic hazard" The editorial called for a ban on all pets in the cabin of planes.

As you many already know, peanuts are not served on airplanes anymore because the peanut dust would get into the recirculated air of the plane and cause reactions in passengers. This editorial says that pet dander can cause the same sort of problem and could be easily remedied by putting the pets into the cargo hold of the plane.

BUT..that type of response will have some pet owners in an uproar because they fear placing their pets down below where they might experience some dramatic temperature variations. Some other pet owners don't believe that it's very safe either. The good news is that accidents involving pets and airline travel is actually pretty rare.  We have a video at the Veterinary News Network that details just how safe this sort of travel really is...

The article goes on to say that about 1 in every 10 people are allergic to dogs or cats. That figure corresponds with an ABC report I read where about 15% of people are allergic to pets. Still, it's hard to imagine that with more than 100 people on every flight and hundreds of flights daily, that this has not come to light sooner. So, is it simply that not enough people fly with their pets in the cabin....or....is it less of an issue than the Canadian doctors are saying?

The final interesting thing to me with this article is a 1998 study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. This study found cat hair on 100% of the seats sampled on domestic flights. My questions are this: How many seats on each flight were sampled and do New Zealanders really fly with their cats that often??

I think a lot more study needs to be done before we consign all of our pets to the cargo hold.   I would love to hear from anyone who has either experienced problems because of a pet in the cabin or who has experienced problems traveling with their pet.

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by Tammy2009, Feb 23, 2010
Since they have started taking pets off cabins where will it stop?  I get bad asthma attacks from cigarette smoke, including the smell on people's clothing, now they have to stop people from smoking for a couple days before flying to help us with lung conditions.  (that would go over REAL well).

I know someone who is allergic to chicken and carrots, oops can't serve them anymore.  Someone could be allergy to beef, oranges, fish, the preservatives in the food.  oops can't serve any food anymore in case of food allergies, just have to go hungry.  

I'm allergic to dust mites, oops have to have plastic seats, and no blankets and pillows unless they are covered in plastic.  Plus, I'm pretty sure that there are more people allergic to dust mites than animals (especially since those allergic to cats are normally also have an allergy to dust mites).  I bet the level of dust mites is super high with the length of time people sit in the seats and sloff off skin cells ..... So are those "allergic people" reacting to the dust mite dander or fluffy cat that was on the previous flight?

People are allergic to scents and cleaning products, oops can't clean the plane in case someone is sensitive to the residue and no one is allowed to use any body products on the plane (it would get smell very quickly).  

There is also the fact that cat dander is found in areas where cats are never allowed due to the protein being small and easily transfered through the air.  If there are people, there is going to be cat hair because (from experience) it is impossible to remove all hair from your clothes.  That is probably where the majority of the dander is from when found on the seats, how are you going to stop that hair from on the plane?  Now if you own a cat you can't fly at all because you and your clothes are "contaminated" with cat hair.

If people are so allergic to cats that they can't be anyway around them, the residue hair on people's clothing probably would set them off all well.  They should be wearing masks that block the inhalation of cat dander to keep them safe.  The mild reactions I get are the majority of allergies, running nose and eyes, and sneezing.  I think most of us can tough that out for a flight so someone's pet is more comfortable.  Just take an antihistamine before the flight, starts most of the symptoms and allows you to get a good sleep, ah, two birds with one stone.

A solution:
Create allergen free flights that limit many of the common allergens for those that are super allergic to things.  Have separate planes with speciality designed seats for low dust mites, lists of ingredients for those with food allergies and no cross contact, no nuts on board, no pets and no smelly personal products.  This would satisfy a lot more people than just those that don't want pets on board.  

... and what about those screaming children?  I would rather have them in cargo than the quiet, sleeping shih tzu.  :D

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by Jessie45, Feb 23, 2010
Since there are so many people with pet allergies, perhaps there could be regularly scheduled special flights to serve passengers traveling with pets so that the poor animals would be able to board in the cabin along with their owners as long as they were in cages that could be secured on or under the seats of the owners for safety.  I have always had pets until my cat died four months ago and I have always felt better boarding her instead of taking a chance that we would have to be separated during travel or leaving her home alone. However, the number of animals traveling might have to be limited to two per person depending on the size of the animal since some people neither know how to limit their offspring nor their animals from time to time. Small, domesticated and tame mammalian pets do not belong in a cargo hold.

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by Piparskeggr, Feb 23, 2010
Argh!!!


I'm getting allergic to well-meaning so-and-so's who try to protect me from what MIGHT happen.

Every breath I take is a risk.  Everything I do in my life, is my responsibility.

I know, I know, some things are beyond my control, but they are not beyond my avoidance.

My wife (Anita) is badly allergic to dogs.  However, she uses antihistamines and other medicines because she loves dogs.  Especially the ones with which she works in a program that helps her and other disabled vets, while re-habbing "unadoptable" dogs for new homes.

I'm allergic to dust, but I work in a dusty, warehouse-style home-improvement store; my choice.  I keep an Albuterol puffer in my locker, just in case.

All I ask is for information so I can take care of me and mine.


Sorry Thomas, good article, as always.

Take care - Pip

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by TrudieC, Feb 23, 2010
I'm sure all the seats have cat and dog fur on them.  If other pet owners are anything like me they go out into the world with pet hair on themselves and it gets left everywhere.  So, even if you banned animals in the cabins you aren't going to solve the problem.  This is ridiculous and sometimes we go too far in the spirit of political correctedness.  With the baby boomers moving into retirement age and the reliance many people (and especially retirees) have on the companionship of their pets, we are going to have to accommodate the ability for people to bring their pets as they travel to see family.  

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by AnnieBrooke, Feb 23, 2010
I don't know if this is still true, but it used to be that only one pet was allowed in the passenger cabin on any given flight.  (If you were travelling with a cat, you had to get your reservation nailed down early.)   The rules also prohibited taking the animal out during the flight, so the pet was in its carrier under the seat in front of you for the whole flight.  Pet hairs on people's clothing would be much more pervasive than hairs or dander from a cabin cat.

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by mum2beagain, Feb 23, 2010
My cat traveled in the hold on a nine hour flight from the UK to Canada when we moved here. He was fine.

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by Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. TechnicianBlank, Feb 24, 2010
Thanks for your comments everyone!  

Pip - as usual, you have cut right to the crux of the matter.   Stop focusing on the "what ifs", the "maybes" and the potential and just simply give me the information I need to live my life!!   No wonder we have such a bloated government!

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by Quixotic1, Feb 24, 2010
I haven't read all the answers yet, but I would bet my arm (the weak and useless one) that the cat hair on the seats was transferred from the passengers' clothes.  Man, have you pet owners (I have six cats) looked at the back of your clothes recently?  Holy Mololy!  I could knit up a whole new cat!

Quix

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by swampcritter, Feb 25, 2010
Quix, Swampy's cat loves to sleep on his dryclean only coat. That coat is now the same color as the cat...in fact, Swampy is pretty sure he heard it meow the other day.

The problem of allergens is not necessarily fur, but saliva, dander, and possibly mites and other critters that live on the animal (no matter how often you bathe, critters are part of your environment).

Swampy has friends who stop breathing when cat dander is around. And, 35,000 feet up, its not exactly possible to go outside and avoid it.

So the question is -- what is the actual risk to health? And if someone were to die from your cat or your dog traveling with you ... well, that isn't a situation Swampy would wish on anyone.

But it is all a question of risk. 70 children a year die from eating hot dogs. 15 of them will die from bee stings. Should be not permit schools to serve hot dogs or plant flowers?

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by TrudieC, Feb 25, 2010
I spoke with a very knowledgeable friend who used to handle large animal flights for Air Canada and has a career working closely with animals.  The fur already on people is just as much an issue for allergens as having the pet in the cabin.  This decision should not be made based on allergies.

She feels that it is better for a pet to be in the cargo hold on the specific planes that can carry pets in that way.  There are constraints on weather so that a pet does not suffer from the heat.  Often you (the pet owner) and the pet suffer when the pet travels in the cabin.  Many pets are frustrated that they can't be held by you and you are bothered that you can't do anything to calm or comfort your pet when they are stressed.  If a pet looses control and either urinates, vomits, etc., then the smell and upset affect everyone.

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by Mikita, Feb 28, 2010
We are forgetting the issue that not all flights are equipped to carry pets in the cargo hold. I recently moved from Scotland to Belgium, and my last flight from Amsterdam to Brussels was a small plane where pets can't be held in cargo because they would die from the temperature.

Besides that I agree with most said above: the cat hair coming in on people's clothes must be the main problem. I am a frequent traveler and have only had it once that a pet was on board, and that was mine! And there are limits, there are never more than 2 pets allowed on one flight.

And where does the madness end? Alcohol is still being served on flights, when research has shown years ago that drunken passengers are the main security risk on flights, but I can't bring a bottle of water and now have to walk through scanners that look through my clothes! I agree with Pip above here, people are responsible for their own lives.

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by beachcritter, Mar 01, 2010
Allergic reactions from pet allergies can be life threatening.  There is no excuse for putting passengers at risk by allowing dogs and cats in airplane cabins.  In my own case, I am extremely allergic to dogs and the presence of a dog in the cabin would be a serious risk to my health whether the dog was near me or at the furthest possible seat away from me.  People should come first.  Pets should travel with the cargo or stay home.

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by beachcritter, Mar 01, 2010
An addendum to my previous post.  Although cat and dog hair may be present on seats in an airplane, that is not nearly as serious a problem as the actual presence of the animal itself with it's concentrated dander, hair, and saliva right there in the cabin and being circulated in cabin air throughout the trip.  One of my nieces has ended up in the hospital several times because of cat allergies.  Preventing asthma is not as simple as taking an antihistamine.  Instead, it requires several medications taken over a period of time before a trip to build up enough resistance, and these medications themselves can and often do cause uncomfortable and sometimes serious side effects.  The fast acting inhalers used for asthma are not long acting and should be used only in emergencies to allow breathing.  If one in ten people on an airplane is allergic to cats or dogs it is putting quite a number at unnecessary risk by allowing pets in the cabin.  I would say it is a matter of human health and human rights vs. animals in the cabin. http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/164699#

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by WifeofAnt, Mar 02, 2010
I think someone hasn't met my cat yet.  Just putting him in the carrier and walking out the front door gets him so nervous the shedding covers everything in fur.  A 5 minute car ride to the vet turns into a half hour trying to clean the fur out of the car!  If I were to take him to an airport he'd probably go bald.  I would look like I was wearing a rug and so would my bags and everyone else who came within 5-10 feet.  Even if he was in the cargo hold the fur would be on me and while he was down there it would contaminate anything and everything it could stick to around him.  Anyone who owns a cat knows fur finds its way into many places the cat has never been!  Either way the other passengers are going to get exposed.

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by steven_23, Mar 02, 2010
I am deathly allergic to cats, but I am willing to take the risk if I would be allowed to smoke cigarettes on flights (and trains) again. Travel has become very unpleasant since the rise of the nanny state.

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by R Glass, Mar 03, 2010
Give them a couple of Doggy Valiums and put them in the hold. They will be fine and probably won’t even remember the flight. On second thought give me a couple and I will ride down there with them.

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by Haddock_Entrap_Propulasion , Mar 04, 2010
My impression, although I'm sure I will get plenty of furious corrections if I'm wrong, is that for the vast majority of people with cat or dog allergies, their responses are not life threatening.  There are simply too many things with which someone -might- have a problem to avoid them all, or to make even trying to avoid the ones that do not usually pose a serious health risk.  I can't tolerate light very well, but you don't see me demanding that the whole world inconvineince themselves to spare me migraines, eye pain, and sunburns.  Instead I, the person whose problem it actually is, take steps to minimize my own discomfort, or make the decision to avoid those situations.  Ultimately, protecting your health is your own responsibility, and you need to consider whether the risk to a tiny minority to which you happen to belong outweighs the wants and needs of the majority (and in this case the majority's pets).  Also, what about service animals?  Or are they hypoallergenic?

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by santinobee, May 04, 2010
It ***** for me, deadly allergic asthma, so I just can't ever fly anywhere.
Cat dander reduces lung function by 20% in NORMAL on allergic people.
The cat thing is incredibly common. I only know 2 people that aren't allergic to cats to some degree.
If I am exposed to cat dander I can risk being really sick and unable to work for over 6mo.
There should be special flights/planes with pets, and some that never come into contact with them.

I understand that a lot of people don't know the risks involved in being exposed to the protein.
Even with all the drugs, I can't find one that works out of everything there is in the USA, Canada, India and NZ.

Why cater to the cat people and not the allergic people?

Beachcritter  exactly right.
and flights were intended for humans in the first place. It's too stressful on the animals anyway..I'd never fly with my creatures...
I use flovent and it still doesn't prevent serious attacks when I get near a cat/jack russel.

TrudieC:
NOT SO AT ALL:
The fur already on people is just as much an issue for allergens as having the pet in the cabin.

I can survive that...
bring the animal within 8 feet of me and I have an attack.

Maybe it's time you guys watch a loved one suffocate due to an allergic attack.
Approximately 5000 people die of asthma each year in this country.... (USA)


5000!!!!

I almost did once too.. you can't just go and they fix it. when air cant get in, you're screwed.

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by santinobee, May 04, 2010
one more:

Pet dander gets in the air a lot worse than peanut dust.  (unless it's in rat poison as the base...)
pet dander can remain in a home for up to six months after the pet has been removed.
An estimated 6 million Americans are allergic to cats.
Cat dander particles are tiny, about 1/10th the size of dust mites.
So they have potential to be everywhere and stick to everything...

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by falala548, May 29, 2010
Dammit, just give me a separate airline that caters to traveling with pets in the cabin.  Done!

Airlines can do whatever they want, just do some market research and notice that there's a ton of people with pets who might consider flying more often if they can bring the pet with them.

Airlines buy planes from ex. Boeing.  Just build a darn plane with an in cabin pet hold that's closed to conceal it from passengers.  The airline could cater to passengers with pets by also having a flight attendant on board who would be in charge of monitoring animals in that holding bay.  

That's just one idea! This conceals animals in a closed bay that's in cabin, temp. controlled and monitored.  It's  a much better idea than having a passenger with the pet at their seat.  For one thing, I've known of cats that sometimes vomit or worse, poop/pee in their carrier.  It can smell foul! You would have a whole cabin full of very unhappy, angry passengers.  

I'm a pet person that wants to travel more with my dogs on board but hey, I pick other travel arrangements, thus airlines loose money they could have had if only they would allow my dog in the cabin.  I wouldn't need my dog right next to me, but if contained in cabin in an enclosed bay like I mentioned, I'd go for that in a nanosecond.  I think many other people with pets would travel more too.

Pet Airways does fly pets and people in cabin.        http://www.petairways.com/

The bad thing is I don't live in the cities they offer flights BUT I'm willing to make a drive to get to an airport they serve.  At least one airline's got a clue that there's MONEY to be made from people who have pets and want to fly!

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by falala548, May 29, 2010
Some with allergies are kind of drama victims.  I'm related to a few of them. I have friends with allergies that seem to pounce on a moment to draw attention to the fact they have an allergy.  They seek drama more than anything else.

I can speak on this matter as I actually do have a very real allergic response to goose down filler that's in coats, pillows, comforters, and other items.  So, I know what it's like to have an allergic attack that's miserable creating red runny eyes/nose, intense itching, coughing, and hives.  But, I can still say that most people with allergies are psychologically over reacting rather than having a strong allergic response to an allergen.  

I have a true allergy to dairy and peanuts as well.  But I don't mentally overreact or feel any need to subject the rest of the world to limitations due to my allergy.  I can understand that there's the rare few who are allergic enough to need great protection from exposure to allergens, but this equates to fewer people than the majority complaining they're "dying" from an allergic response.   If you're that bad, you need to live in a plastic bubble.

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by JElsie, Sep 18, 2010
My mother is deathly allergic to all shedding critters but most especially to cats.  When she flies she tries all she can do get the airline to ensure her flight has no animals in the cabin but really, there is nothing they can do.  She still holds hope though and keeps on asking.

Once in transit, if someone on a flight has a reaction, it's not like they can step outside for fresh air.  Think about it.  Yeah, not an option.  Epinephrine shots help when necessary but they aren't a solution... they're a frickin' 20-minute temporary shot of relief designed to use on LAND so the person in crisis can buy a little extra time to get where they need to go to call for help, drive to the hospital, etc.  In a plane the shots are rather pointless.  

I love my mother.  

I love my cat.

I love being able to breathe.

You want to be able to breathe freely all the time; so do people who are allergic to animals, cigarette smoke, perfumes, etc.

People need to quit being so jerky and do what they can do so everyone has the freedom to breathe... period.

As for hair in the cabin already and the argument that live animals are no different.  Yeah... no.  An animal in the cabin has hair that floats around in the air easily and is more likely to do so due to frequent movement, scratching, shaking, rubbing the side of the kennel, etc.  Hair that is unfortunately attached to chair seats and the carpet aren't the greatest and can cause some problems but aren't really being actively tossed around and therefore pose less of a potential problem.  This is similar to the cat owner who shoves their cats in the back room frantically vacuums the house before guests come over.  They vacuumed so close to arrival thinking a freshly vacuumed space would be better for those allergic to the cats.  However sweet and warm fuzzy this is, it is untrue.  The act of vacuuming stirs up hair and dander and often makes reactions exemplified due to such.

So, if you want to travel with your pet.  DRIVE.  It's fun, gives you someone to talk to.

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by WSDRradioGirl, May 10, 2011
I am so sick to death of animals having more rights than me. I am a life-long asthmatic. I spend about $1,000 (one THOUSAND) every 2 months for my meds. I'm maxed out on a steroid inhaler, 2 puffs, twice daily. I also take a long-acting bronchodialator twice a day (also maxed out on dosage). I take a pill-singulair-for allergic asthma. I also take claritin, an allergy pill. On top of all these meds, I take my rescue inhaler quite often. I literally have no room to breathe!

Pets on planes is a life-threatening issue for me. The last time I flew, I had a severe attack on the plane and couldn't breathe for 3 days. In fact, I had to keep my mouth and nose covered to avoid breathing in more dander. On the flight itself, there was no cat present, but had recently been on the plane. Before they allowed pets back in the cabin of planes, I never had an attack like this. I would always be 'tight' in my lungs, but since allowing pets in the cabin, my asthma has made it impossible to travel. I no longer fly for pleasure and ONLY fly when I have to.

I'm leaving tomorrow for Newfoundland (an Island, so I have to fly). I know Air Canada still allows pets on the plane, so I'm doing what I can. I've upped my steroid inhaler (even though I'm maxed out on dosaging). I also went and bought a particulate filter mask...I literally cannot do anything more. I can only hope that my specific flights have been pet-free for several weeks (although it takes 6 months+ for dander to lose their allergic component).

PLEASE people...have some respect and understanding for others' needs to breathe. Your need to be accompanied by your furry friend should not outweigh my right to breathe.

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